SUDBURY, Ont.— A trial starts today in Sudbury, Ont., for two provincial Liberals accused of bribery under the Election Act stemming from a 2015 byelection.
Pat Sorbara, who was at the time the Ontario Liberal Party CEO, faces two charges and Gerry Lougheed, a local Liberal fundraiser, faces one charge they both deny wrongdoing.
They’re accused of offering would-be candidate Andrew Olivier a job or appointment to get him to step aside for Premier Kathleen Wynne’s preferred candidate, then NDP MP Glenn Thibeault.
Wynne ultimately appointed Thibeault as the candidate, he won the byelection and has since been promoted to energy minister.
One of Sorbara’s charges relates to an allegation she promised to get Thibeault “an office or employment” to induce him to become a candidate, which both deny.
Wynne herself is set to testify on Sept. 13.
She has said that she had already decided Olivier would not be the byelection candidate by the time Sorbara and Lougheed spoke to him, therefore anything offered was not in exchange for stepping aside. Rather, Wynne says, she was trying to keep him in the party fold.
When the Election Act charges were laid in November, Sorbara had recently taken a leave of absence as the premier’s deputy chief of staff to become the Ontario Liberal Party CEO and 2018 campaign director. She stepped down after being charged.
An Election Act bribery conviction carries a penalty of up to $5,000. If a judge finds it was broken “knowingly,” the penalty is a fine of up to $25,000 and/or up to two years less a day in jail.